Archive for April, 2010

Bellydance isolations for poppers

April 27, 2010 1 comment

Perhaps the greatest criteria to determine a good popper is the ability to isolate. Isolation refers to the ability to move a certain parts of your body independently from other parts of your body. The robot, the boogaloo, popping, and waving are based on the ability to isolate.

Some important body parts to isolate are the upper torso, the shoulders, and the head (this includes the neck).  I am finding out more and more how shoulder isolation can improve nearly every dance move, particularly arm waves and body waves.  Chest and head isolations are necessary to execute one of the most impressive moves in popping.

Quick question: Which dancers need the greatest isolation abilities? If you said bellydancers, then you have a great short-term memory. Perhaps because isolation is so important for them, the best isolation exercise I have found are from bellydancers.  Remember when I posted that piano players have the best exercises for the fingers? Inspirations to improve your popping can come from surprising sources, and this is no different.

Check out these two videos on shoulder rolls and torso slides. Karen Sun Ray Coletti (and another, unnamed assistant) teaches you shoulder and upper torso isolations.

If you’re not convinced, you can always go back to the great poppers, like Tyson Eberly and his zombie walk exercise.

Isolation exercises may seem tedious, but they can save you years of time and frustration. You’ll see the results quickly in your dancing.

Categories: Outside inspiration

Piano finger isolations

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Fingerwaves and liquid digit moves are incredibly impressive. They require a lot of control over your fingers, and you will benefit if you practice isolation exercises.

Sometimes the best exercises come from outside actual popping. In the case of finger control, the best isolation exercises that I have encountered come from piano. This makes sense since piano players require extraordinary control over their fingers.  The most typical problem is the inability to move the pinky independently from the index finger, although moving the index finger independently from the middle finger represents another obstacle.

Greg Irwin produced a series of exercise videos dealing exclusively with digit isolations. I found a series of clips with different exercises. I recommend to watch all of them (they’re very short), but this seems like the most useful for beginners.

Of course, some of the great poppers have produced their own useful finger exercises.

There are many different exercises, so start searching. Digit moves and fingerwaves can add a lot to your regular dance routines, even if you aren’t a raver.

You may be reluctant to do so. While isolation exercises may seem tedious, they save you a lot of time and frustration. You’ll see it very quickly if you try it.

Categories: Outside inspiration

Tyson Eberly

April 19, 2010 2 comments

Tyson Eberly is the one who got me into popping.  It was his online tutorial series How to do the robot that made me start practicing, and his tutorials continue to be the most helpful and detailed tutorials I have encountered. There aren’t many poppers who are great dancers as well as teachers, but Tyson is exceptional. Versatile in his styles, Tyson is skilled in popping, roboting, waving, tutting, and miming.

I feel grateful that I could interview him over email and present him on my blog. His story shows how popping came back as a popular dance style after more then a decade of neglect. it also shows how dancing can help one person struggling through difficult times.

Tyson was born in Austin, Texas, and practiced popping as early as age 7. “[T]he 3 primary influences I remember are the movies Beat Street and Breaking. And the last would be the late MJ of course.”

However, back in 1983, popping remained an underground dance practiced mostly in poorer urban regions, and “unless you lived in the hood, nobody was doing it.” He stopped popping and moved on to other party dance styles  such as the Running man and the Hammer. He continued dancing in his teenage years, but became more focused on parties, drinking “and chasing girls”.

This spread into his twenties and began to take an enormous toll on his health. He developed the Epistine-Barr immune deficiency and became “a sick 25 year old alcoholic going on 50.”

A friend invited him to move out to LA, and shortly after arriving he decided to start abstaining from alcohol for six months, “which was a scary thought but deep down [I] knew it had to be done as my health had only gotten worse.” It was in these troubled times that he reconnected with popping. He saw a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse commercial where female dancer Dusty Paik popped and waved inside a car to the Dirty Vegas track Days gone by.

(Some of you may remember Dave Chappelle’s parody).

The commercial was based on the music video to Days gone by. The music video featured Byron McIntyre and Garland Spencer breaking, popping,  locking, and popping.

Shortly thereafter, he encountered another female dancer who was “killing it” in a club. He asked her from where she learned those moves, and she mentioned  Mr Wiggles, one of the earliest and most prominent poppers (and the most business savvy, selling his instructional tapes over

Tyson purchased two instructional tapes on tutting and footwork. He also bought a basic popping tutorial by Popin Pete, a member of the groundbreaking dance crew The Electric Boogaloos.

By now, Tyson became fully immersed in the dance. He opened up a dance studio in the garage of his San Fernando house and trained at hip hop dance school Mellimium. He associated with and befriended a number of poppers, such as Madd Chadd, Pandora, J-Rock, Poppin Todd, and Otis Funkmeyer. He became particularly close with Madd Chadd, and Tyson maintains that Madd Chadd is his biggest influence. I can believe this, because Madd Chadd is one of the best botters out there. He is currently featured in Jon M. Chu’s dance group Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (LXD), and can be seen in Chu’s films Step Up 2 and Step Up 3d

The more he immersed himself in popping (or robopoppin, as he calls it), the more frustrated he became by the lack of mainstream attention. This led him to establish the dancing company Elastic Illusion with Otis Funkmeyer and Josh “Ace Ventura” and they produced the How to do the robot series.  It represented a great financial risk for Tyson, but it became a success. Many of the videos received millions of views, and it spawned a second tutorial (Breakdance DVD, taught by Ace Ventura).

Despite the success, it was a short-lived venture. Ace Ventura left the group to produce further tutorials independently, and Tyson broke of business relations with Otis Funkmeyer after a dispute over revenue shares.Tyson moved back to Austin and started hosting his television program Tyson TV on Channel 16 Austin Public Access. I have seen the program, and his dancing tutorials are even more in depth and original. I can only recommend the program.

Tyson also teaches weekly classes, produces a weekly radio program (the new paradigm). He was a involved on the Bruce Willis film Surrogates (motion capturing for the film’s robots).

He is satisfied that popping is receiving greater mainstream attention through programs like So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew. And LXD, of course. As towards his plans for the future, he concludes: “I will continue to dance on a daily basis well into my 50’s I feel because this dance can be! It’s not hard on the body, it’s good for the body!”

Raw Interview: Otis Funkmeyer

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

This is my interview with Otis Funkmeyer. For a quick introduction, read my feature on this scholar of popping.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Arundel, Maine, a small town of 2000 white people. The house I grew up in was built in 1690 and my closest neighbor was 1/2 mile away. We didn’t have cable television in my town until I was 13 years old. All true!

What got you into dancing, and why did you specialise in popping?

I got into dancing because of raves and I had a very intense experience with LSD at a rave that made me want to drop everything–I was a math major in college–and become a dancer. I chose to specialize in popping because it’s the best dance. Period. It is so funky and amazing and it is so illusional and amazing it is so trippy and amazing and the way that a popper can BECOME the music. I’ve never seen it anywhere else. I was hooked immediately. I saw an old clip (this is 5-7 years before Youtube) of Skeeter Rabbit of the Electric Boogaloos and I crapped in my pants and said “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO.” Within 2 years, Skeet was my good friend and teacher.

What was the reaction of your parents and peers to your dancing passion?

People were VERY surprised and VERY skeptical. I kept it to myself in many ways for a long time. I think that it’s really important to nurture your creativity and if you notice that there is someone in your life who is not supportive of your passion and your dream, you must shield it from them. Creativity is like a tiny baby flower. It is very delicate and fragile at first. It needs love and encouragement. Too much negativity can kill it.

One of the biggest things that my journey to popping has taught me is that if you stick with your passions, you develop a sense of character that can not be taken away from you and it sticks with you in every endeavor you become involved with.

How did you come to the conclusion to pursue dancing full-time and travel to learn more about the dance?

I couldn’t help it man. I was obsessed. OBSESSED. It was all I could think about. For a long time, I had no interest in talking about ANYTHING except popping. My friends JRock and PopnTod and I used to spend HOURS on the telephone just talking about anything and everything related to popping… it’s deep man this popping thing!

What were your experiences living with poppers (like Madd Chadd) and making friends with a new network of poppers.

It was the best. The way that I have always felt is that I participated in one of the amazing renaissances of the world. Like the Harlem Renaissance or Paris in the 20’s. I mean, it was me, JRock, PopnTod, Madd Chadd, Tetris, Animatronix, Pandora, JSmooth, Kid Boogie, Preying Mantas… we would just hang out and go dancing all the time. We were all young dancers just trying to get better. Now, we are all winning contests all over the world and starring in movies and theatrical productions. It was a special time and the best part is that all of us were a part of it and so we have a special look of recognition when we see each other.

Which poppers and teachers made the greatest impression on you during this time?

My main teacher without question was Skeeter Rabbit. He taught me as much about life and art as anyone I’ve known. Skeet and I were SOOOOOO different from such different walks of life that it just worked. He was the one who made me feel comfortable around people different from me. My first teacher who really got me going was Poppin Pete. And my VERY first teacher who showed me the ropes was Gorgeous Fon the Dapper Don, who has basically created one of the biggest and best popping scenes in the world now in Montreal. I have also learned a LOT from Jazzy J, Buddha Stretch, Boppin Andre, and Brian Green. Those guys all put together are my main teachers. And also JRock, PopnTod, and MaddChadd. We all lived together so were always showing each other new things.

How did you become involved with Elastic Illusion, and how did the company break up?

I got super disillusioned with the popping scene. As I started growing up and maturing and developing spiritually, I saw how lame the whole thing was. A bunch of teenage boys basically–always beefing, always talking about drama… it was actually more like teenage GIRLS to be honest. I just lost interest.

The culminating incident was when Suga Pop punched out my friend PopnTod for no reason. Basically, because Suga Pop’s whole mentality is based on dominating people. If they stand up to his intimidation, all he can do is fight. He is a sad man–at least he was when I knew him. And I’d say that to his face. It’s the truth.

After that, I thought, this is STUPID. I want to be involved in sharing the FUN of dance with people. I don’t want to tell you how to dance. I just want to show you HOW and let you make up your own mind.

And me and Ace and Tyson are some weird guys. So we thought. Let’s just go for it all the way. And we did.

The breakup was a sort of “you reap what you sow” thing and we all learned a lot from it. It just happened… People change.

How did you start producing your own tutorials?

I was always really scared of being in front of the camera so it took me a long time to start producing my own tutorials. After the Elastic Illusion experience, I realized what I actually cared about was people who wanted to learn REAL POPPING. I mean, just read my resume above. I’ve studied extensively with pretty much ALL of the OGs. I didn’t even mention how much I studied with Taco and Wiggles and Suga Pop, but I did. They just weren’t that huge an influence on me.

And people were always calling us “fags” in Elastic Illusion. I figured, I’ll show you what real dancing is, and then you see what you call me.

To put it another way, the goal with Elastic Illusion was to show millions of people how to dance. Our videos have about 23 millions views as of May 2010 so it’s like, we succeeded.

My goal with my tutorials is to create 10,000 HARD ASS, RAW, FUCK YOU UP IN THE CIRCLE, EAT YOU UP IN A BATTLE, HARD HITTING POPPERS. So it’s a different goal and it requires a different approach.

What does your daily practice session consist of, including any supplementary conditioning- and flexibility training?

I eat really healthy. I have spent about 10 years learning the ins and outs of nutrition and now have a diet I am very happy with. A lot of raw food, mostly (but not strictly) vegan. It works for me.

I have discovered, even though I know this might be too hard to believe, that you just have to practice when you feel like it. Look at dance as a life long journey. Some weeks or months or years you want to get down 24/7. Sometimes you don’t. Just flow with it. TRUST THE PROCESS. Don’t worry about getting rusty.

Popping, the way I teach it, is a BIIIIIGGGGGGGG dance. There are a LOT of concepts, a LOT of styles, a LOT of feels to learn. You have to take your time. Be patient.

I see a lot of people in a hurry to be the next Pacman, the next Mr. Fantastic, the next Elsewhere. Those are not the students I’m interested in. Those people come and go (not Pac/Fan/Else, but they’re wannabes). i am wanting to teach people who are in it for the long haul. I don’t get caught up in HOW MANY of those people there are.

So, basically, I just dance when I feel like it. is it good? I dunno. Is it bad? I dunno. But I do know that it works for me.

What is the most common mistake beginning poppers make, and what advice should all new poppers know?

Going too fast. On all levels. Trying to run before you walk. Trying to freak beats before you can ride beats. Trying to boogaloo before you can pop. Ignoring the robot.

The biggest advice is SLOW DOWN. Practice air posing. Work on your slow, subtle dimestops. Be patient. Don’t try to get “GOOD” so fast. Be OK being BAD! You’ll get GOOD! Everyone gets good eventually. Just be patient. ENJOY where you’re at.

This was the advice that I was given that I didn’t take! And now I wish I had.

The other advice is listening to other people TOO MUCH. At some point, you have to decide how YOU want to dance. Skeeter Rabbit did it for me but maybe he doesn’t do it for you! That’s cool. TRUST YOUR GUT. Don’t trust mine! That took me a long time to learn and when you learn that, you will have a confidence when you dance.

What are your thoughts on the competitive nature of popping, and how should one deal with the success of others?

Man, you gotta keep GRIIINDIN. Just keep putting in work. The competitive nature is what makes the dance dope. A heated battle is like nothing else. Fuck the contests; a circle battle is where it really goes down. No politics, just show and prove. It’s primal. It’s real.

You know, I’ve been in the game 10 years now. I’ve burned some bridges that I’ve had to rebuild and I’ve discovered that even when you think someone has disappeared, they haven’t. Work on CONGRATULATING and APPRECIATING other people’s success. Think about how special it is that you knew that person way back when. And realize that if you are around them, then maybe it’s because you’re well on your way toward success as well.

I mean, I got STOOOORIES man. I remember when JSmooth had no confidence, when JRock had no car, when MaddChadd had no home, when PopnTod had no job, when Pandora had no musicality, when Kid Boogie had no skills. I mean… that’s special you know.

I discovered I had to make my own path. As Eminem said, “I came to the fork in the road and went straight.” That’s wassup.

What changes do you see in popping now then the time where you started?

You know what. I just saw JRock for the first time in a minute last night and we were talking about this. The youngsters don’t understand the importance of foundation. I always thought Youtube was gonna make an army of dope dancers and on one level it has, but on another level, there is so much eye candy to try to bite on Youtube that a lot of people are not historians. Trust me. Victory is achieved by the patient.

Our generation had to be DETECTIVES man. I’m talking PRE-DVD era. We were mailing each other VHS cassettes back and forth across the country. Trying to find ANY SCRAP of footage we could possibly find. I always thought this sucked for us. But actually, it made us HUNGRY. We were forced to always be looking, always be grinding, always be searching.

And I think for that reason our dance has more SOLIDNESS. The architecture of our dance has more of a foundation. There’s a basement and good scaffolding. You can’t BS that stuff.

The way I think about it is like–what’s the longest-lasting building on the planet? The Pyramids in Egypt.

Now I actually think that there was extraterrestrial assistance in their construction, but ignoring that for a moment…

What’s the first thing you notice. IT’S NOT EASY TO BUILD THAT SHIT MAN. You got THOUSANDS of MASSIVE stones. So you do that hard work for 500 years and the shit lasts for like 10,000 years. That’s how it goes.

You wanna be a dancer who LASTS. Who not only gets on the TV-show-of-the-moment but who is still going strong, getting more and more respect at age 50, 60 and beyond, you gotta do the HARD WORK. There are no shortcuts to foundation. That’s plain and simple truth.

What are your future plans?

My goal is to create the ultimate popping teaching resource and game that the world has ever scene. I spend so much time thinking, analyzing, brainstorming the best way to teach this dance. You know when you go into a ballet or jazz dance class. They got a SYSTEM man. You learn in a very specific way. I want to create the Funkmeyer method of learning popping. I want to produce well-rounded, super hard, very unique and creative dancers by the thousands.

My other goal is to be the star of a holographic video game popping instructional. Something like rock band/guitar hero for popping. The technology is not there yet but we get closer everyday.

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